Tag Archives: instructional design

Friday Fun with Infographics: Whedonverse Edition


Now, I’ve seen some pretty intense Whedonverse infographics in my time… there’s a lot of crossover in Joss’ work, and you can make a whole bunch of connections on different levels if you’re so inclined. Seriously, people study his work at university because it’s so impressively involved and intertwined.

Anywho, I quite fancy this basic infographic which shows how Whedon likes to reuse actors across different shows and films.

There’s a couple of really great instructional design techniques that I think are worth pointing out:

  • MIND MAP LAYOUT: the mind map style of this infographic makes it really engaging to look at, but it also makes the information contained in it look really accessible to the reader. Thumbs up.
  • USE OF KEY: I’m always appreciative of a good map key. This one is super straight forward, and therefore effective. Each film/show is represented by a colour, and the colour used to outline the character picture corresponds. Really straightforward, gets the point across, and doesn’t really ‘interfere’ with the information. It’s just sitting there in a really convenient way.

I’m not so sure about the illustration of Joss used as the central image… it’s a great illustration, but I find it weird having the ‘master’ of the work portrayed in character, while all the other images used are photos. Maybe they could have just used a photo of Joss for design consistency?

Click on the image to see the infographic in full. Have a great weekend, y’all!

Infographic Source: DigitalSpy.co.nz

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Liquid Learning Blended Learning Conference 2013

So, I went along to the three day Liquid Learning conference last week, my first big L&D industry event.

It was a real eye opener. There were a number of heavy hitters speaking at the conference, and it was really pretty impressive. I thought it was great how a mixture of public and private businesses were represented, from government services like the IRD to huge private entities like Vodafone.

There were a few key learnings I took away from the three days, so bear with me while I try and explain it.

1. I ALREADY HAVE A PRETTY GOOD GRASP ON WHAT BLENDED LEARNING IS: I know I go on and on about eLearning, and I certainly love developing eLearning modules. But that hardly means the classroom is dead… and this conference helped me see there will always be a place for face to face training delivery. So PHEW. I really enjoy developing/making engaging training materials – workbooks, puzzles and games, handouts and the like – and I think I’m pretty good at it too, so I was pleased to hear that going forward there’ll still be a need for these sorts of materials. Yay for variety!

2. THERE’S NO ONE ‘FIT’ FOR TRAINING: There really isn’t. Some sessions were interesting, but I couldn’t see how the information I was taking in could be applied in my work… and from chatting with others during breaks it seemed this was a common feeling among attendees. Interesting. But we all seemed to have key points we’d be taking back to the office – just different points. This was also pleasing, because it promises future contracts with different points of views and needs. Bring it on!

3. GRADUAL RELEASE OF ‘COURSELS’: There was much talk over several sessions about how L&D peeps all seem to love creating content (usually in eLearning form), taking the time necessary to make it perfect, and releasing large-form modules at once. But what about the chance to engage learners in the time it took to develop the material? This was REALLY interesting, and I could all but see lightbulbs going off above heads all around the room.

What if you released material in draft form, throughout the development process, so learners could pick up the training piece by piece as you developed it? Once it’s completed, release it in it’s final format, but who’s to say that up to that point of ‘perfection’ the content wasn’t capable of teaching learners something?

The idea of also keeping modules bite-sized and unpacking large modules in order to provide ‘just in time’ training was also intriguing. And it makes SO MUCH SENSE. Once a module is unpacked into 5-10 minute chunks, it makes it easier for the learner to hone in on specific material that relates to the work they’re currently doing… and giving the training that contextual dimension undoubtedly helps the information stick.

I’ll definitely be working that into content I’m currently developing.

4: INTERACTIVE PDFs: I’ve been daydreaming about this for the best part of a week now. I didn’t even know PDFs could be interactive, so this was super exciting for me. Apprently this is a function of InDesign, which I definitely need to investigate. So basically you can take a smallish-document (5-6 pages at most, I’d say), and create buttons that move to different pages of the document. Hyperlink all the buttons and save it as an interactive PDF and VOILA – you’ve got yourself a mini-eLearning module that’s in document form. This would be a really versatile format that’s also really accessible. This has MUCH potential for future projects, I reckon (but don’t worry, I still love PowerPoint).


So there we go, just a few of the key points I took away from what was a great conference. The rest may follow in a few days time when I finish processing everything that I took in! Three days is pretty epic in learning terms, so we’ll see.

Sorry for the fortnight of silence! I’m sure you all missed me BIG TIME 😛

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The Case For PowerPoint… episode four

I’m still at it! As you can probably tell, I’ve been on a bit of an imagery bender this last couple of weeks, and now I’m about to continue along that thread with…

Part Four Custom Clipart

Did you even know that you can pull some clipart images apart and just grab the bits you like? Yeah, I just caused a brain explosion, didn’t I?

This only applies to illustrations, and not all of them – but if you find an image and you like one piece of it, it’s worth a go.

SO HOW DO I DO IT? It’s so easy it’s embarrassing. Just select your clipart picture, paste it into your powerpoint and right click it. From the Group category, select ‘ungroup’. You’ll probably get a message that looks like this:

Clipart Message

Click yes, then repeat the ungrouping – right click, group, ungroup. Your image will now look like a bunch of little bits. Click away to deselect all the parts, then start deleting the bits you don’t want. When you’re left with the remaining parts, just regroup them and you have yourself a custom clipart image!

Here’s some examples I pulled together from an eLearning module I made a few years back.

Beer and Pizza

Repairs Combo

Pretty cool, right? Here’s a few tips to bear in mind though:

  • Not all illustrations can be altered, it’s just a case of tough luck if you can’t.
  • If you want to save your custom image as a new file, I recommend saving it as an Enhanced Windows Metafile (that’s an option alongside your standard jpg, png etc…). The bonus of a metafile is that when you insert it into a PowerPoint presentation, you can still alter the parts; i.e. it’s an image file you can still ungroup.
  • Always try clipart before paying for imagery. Really! The image tagging used in clipart is great, meaning you can get great returns on a basic search, where just a part of the illustration relates to your keyword. You might want a picture of a pencil, for example. If you search for ‘pencil’ your search will return images of pencils on desks, in cups, maybe next to a book etc. And now you know how to ungroup the illustration and snatch the pencil from it’s setting!
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My Own Personal Image Collection

I don’t consider myself very good at social media – I’m too verbose for Twitter, too informal for Facebook (I friended too many family members and now I think that anything funny I have to say will offend someone) and I don’t have the attention span for Pinterest.

I’m pretty good at Instagram though. I always enjoyed photography class at school, and getting an iPhone with a decent camera in it was pretty exciting. I’m still impressed by the quality of the photos I can take using my phone. It occurred to me a few weeks back that I’m starting to form a pretty great personal image collection too. I’ve developed the habit of trying to take a photo myself before trawling the internet for a free version too – especially for photos of surfaces, textures and the like, which are pretty easy to pull together right here at home.

Below are a few PowerPoint slides I pulled together* using some images from my phone. They’re pretty good, I think!

Eat Fresh



*I pulled these together using my imagination. I love Auckland parks but I have no idea how many people go to them compared to pre-2011, and I’m not fashionable, so don’t wear stuff because I said so. Really.

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A Player in the Local Democracy

It’s local election time in Auckland, but according to the NZ Herald, only 12% of Aucklanders have sent back their voting papers, which is really such a pity. Not only are we lucky to live in a democracy, we’re extra lucky to have a voting system that’s so easy to accommodate – all you need to do is tick some boxes then pop your voting paper in the post!

So this has gotten me thinking. Why don’t we vote? I think it’s too easy to just write it off as a mass of apathetic citizens… in fact, I’m starting to wonder if part of the problem is that not everyone understands civics and how our city is run. I’m not sure if it’s taught in schools. I only know the very basics myself, which I’ve picked up from here and there as an adult.

So when I came across this great little video about local elections and why it’s important to vote, I just had to share!

From an instructional design point of view, this is a very simple concept that would be easy to replicate in powerpoint or in Flash if you were so inclined. I found it engaging – moreso than if I had switched onto the 6 o’clock news and saw this as an opinion piece. It’s so easy for political issues, big and small, to become bogged down in detail, and become less accessible to the everyman, that I found this truly refreshing. Well done, Matai Media and 60s Civics!

PS: 60s Civics actually have a series of great videos that serve as introductions to government processes and structures (civics, a term not used all that often in NZ), a great starting point if you want to bone up on local government.

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Only Dummies Don’t Use Images

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of 30 Rock, so I’m doing a Liz Lemon and calling everyone a dummy at the moment.

My point is supposed to be, if you’re presenting your information as just text, or just talk, you’re missing out! Here’s why:

1. Who wants to look at screeds and screeds of words? Sorry, but I didn’t show up to read a book – and that’s the only exception to my ‘words, words, words, boring, boring, boring’ mantra that I just made up now. Let’s take a look at some slides from a corporate team-building quiz night I organised a few years back. Each slide was simple: question on one side of the slide, image on the other. The design won’t set your world alight, BUT compared to a slide that’s just text, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to look at!

Quiz Slides with pics

2. If they’re reading, they’re not listening. You know how your significant other might be talking away to you while you’re surfing the net and you’re making ‘uh huh… mmm hmm’ noises at them? Yeah, you’re not listening. You’re reading, aren’t you?

Presenting is the same – if you put lots of text on a slide, your audience won’t be listening to you, they’re reading your content instead. Great, they’re getting the message that way, but you’ve removed yourself from the occasion! You might as well have stayed at your desk and played solitaire. This is a PowerPoint 101 point to make, but I’m going to make it anyway. Keep your text brief, but I reckon that if you can make your point with an image, and talk to that, even better! Here’s a couple examples I threw together using the Shakespeare quiz slide above:

Don't do it1

Do the Bard1

3. There’s plenty of good, free images to use. There really is! They might not be quite as good as paid stock imagery, but Clipart has definitely levelled up in the last year or two. Be prepared to trawl around a bit, but you’ll find some gems, I guarantee it.

So go forth and use some images already!

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Why I Shouldn’t Eat McDonalds: Three Messages, Three Methods

Don’t get me wrong, I totally eat McDonalds. If I’m doing to eat a burger, McDonalds is my number once choice. I love a good ‘ol cheeseburger, preferably the deluxe cheeseburger, because it comes with lettuce and mayo. Should I eat less of it? Yes, absolutely. Am I eating less of it? Yes, I actually am. Well, since this July just past.

What changed my attitude? I already knew it made me fat… I had an idea that it wasn’t so great for the environment… It had occurred to me before that it was a community issue that needed to be addressed by society.

What caused a change for me was that, in my infinite need to find new examples of teaching and presenting information, I came across enough well presented information on the topic to sway me. Here’s the three messages and the three methods by which that information passed into my (thick) skull. Each piece was compelling enough to start the cogs turning, but together they created a proper, informed notion that I shouldn’t eat McDonalds very often. In fact, hardly ever.

Message One: I’m not built to eat this stuff (i.e. it makes me fat), and it’s not good for the environment.
Method: The always excellent Michael Pollan at PopTech 2009.

Pollan Burger

I first clamped eyes on this presentation when it was used as an in Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate (an excellent resource, get yourself a copy NOW), and in a book it was convincing. When I finally got around to watching the video earlier this year, the tables turned. Engaging speaker? Tick. Polished and effective Powerpoint presentation? Tick (you can thank Duarte for that one). A demonstration that will leave your mouth agape? TICK.

If you haven’t already, check it out. The demonstration blew me away, but for you it might be one of the images in the presentation, or one of Pollan’s jokes. My point: there’s a tonne of opportunities to get the viewer onside in this talk.

Message Two: This is a social issue – it isn’t good for my community, it doesn’t make my neighbourhood better.
Method: Interactive map at the Guardian.com

McDs Map

This article was mostly about how McDonalds is charging its way into South East Asia now, with their first restaurant opening up in Vietnam. But there were two things that really caught my attention:

1) This interactive map which shows the number of McDonalds restaurants in 2007 compared to 2012 by country. Twenty more McD’s have popped up in New Zealand over the last 6 years, and I’m pretty sure FOUR of them are within ten minutes drive of my house. New Zealand is small, but it’s not THAT small. 20% of the new restaurants in the past 6 years so close to my house? No thanks!

2) The graph of people per restaurant (per capita) graph. New Zealand is fourth?! That’s a little high for my liking.

This combined with regular articles in the paper about increasing obesity rates, it was enough to get me thinking that perhaps I need to ‘vote with my fork’ as Pollan says, and vote NO to so much of this stuff being in my community.

Message Three: Food waste is appalling, especially in the western world. Who am I helping by eating this stuff?
Method: Infographics at thinkeatsave.org

burger infographic

The Green Party of New Zealand posted a link to these rad infographics on their Facebook page last week, by which time I’d already been burger-free for well over two months, but it was a nice motivator to keep up the good work. While I’d never throw out a hamburger (phew, I just saved a 60 minute shower), I have been known to throw out other food I’d purchased in my weekly shop because I paid an unplanned visit to the drive through. So I’m still being unnecessarily wasteful. In fact, this is the infographic which cut closest:

fish infographic

Being wasteful isn’t necessarily a middle-class or western problem, and this was a great reminder that I could be better (and to be perfectly honest, I think my waste is modest compared to some friends and family). Regardless, I could definitely work on this – and I reckon not eating fast food so often could be a good starting point.

So there you have it, three messages and three methods. There are lots of ways to present a piece of information, so don’t limit yourself by mastering just one – you might just find that a new method and new approach to your content can rejuvenate it entirely, and open it up to a new audience.

Image Credits: Amazon.com (how convenient, it’s a link to Resonate!), theguardian.com, thinkeatsave.org

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The Case For Powerpoint… Yes, it Continues

Can you believe I’ve stuck with this series for three whole entries? Craziness. Let’s not dawdle though:

Part Three Image Editing

PowerPoint is many things, but it isn’t Photoshop. It’s not the most powerful image editing software you can use, but that’s not what it’s for. It CAN do the basics though, and it can do them simply. All you need is your image, and the Picture Tools – Format tab on your ribbon.

So, what image editing features does PowerPoint offer?

Crop, Align and Rotate Images: these are definitely essentials of photo editing, especially if you’re working with multiple images. The cropping tool is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that you have the option to crop to a shape which is really useful – crop your image into a circle, star, chord; whatever you fancy. Once you start using the align tool, you’ll never look back. You’ll also become annoyed when viewing presentations where items aren’t aligned. I particularly rate the ‘distribute horizontally/vertically’ option, which is great if you want a series of items evenly spaced on the slide.

Artistic Effects, Colours and Corrections: To be honest, I don’t use Artistic Effects or Colours very often, because the result has been pretty naff when I’ve tried it. There are times when the Corrections tool will be your friend though – if you have varying images sourced from different places, use this tool to correct tonal differences. Voila!

Remove Background/Set Transparent Colour: This is the single most exciting tool in PowerPoint for me. I use it ALL THE TIME. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when presentations are full of images with white backgrounds sitting on a coloured slide. It’s especially annoying to me now I know that it can be fixed in two or three clicks.

The Remove Background tool does what it says on the tin, and you have control over which parts of the image stay or go if you have a particularly tricky image you’re working with. The Set Transparent Colour tool is simply marvellous (you’ll find it under the Colours menu), but only use it when you’re dealing with a vector image or a graphic with very clear lines and colours.

Here’s some examples I put together using images from Fauxgo. You really should check Fauxgo out, its a super cute collection of logos from fictional companies and brands featured in TV and film.

Grape Soda Combo

See? Not removing the background makes the slide look LAME.

SCDP combo

It only takes two clicks. Now you have no excuses.

If you want to know more about the Remove Background and Set Transparent Colours tools, you can check out this eLearning Heroes tutorial (which uses PowerPoint 2010). Enjoy!

Image Credits: Fauxgo

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How Sesame Street Helps Make My Work Better

Over at Full Potential a week back, we were talking about the importance of self-teaching and team-teaching at the start of a new project to make sure we have a working understanding of the job at hand. Makes sense, right? Surely you need to know what you’re talking about in order for your work to be functional in the context it will be used in. You would think so.

When you think how many industries there are out there, and how many roles and tasks are at play in each industry… well, that’s a lot of information to take in. But if, as an Instructional Designer, you don’t take the time to understand the actual content that you’re working with, you’re doing both yourself and your client a real disservice.

Which brings us to my Sesame Street approach to new projects. My favourite clips growing up were ones that explained processes, or how things are made – for example, how a jar of PB is made (“it takes a lot of little nuts to make a jar of peanut butter!”). More recently, I saw an episode where Elmo was learning how the postal service works. When I think I have a decent grasp on new content, I consider how I would explain it to a kid, or someone with little working knowledge of the content. I don’t actually go find a kid, but I think about how I’d explain it, and fill in any knowledge blanks that fall out of my imaginary conversation.

I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that I don’t know EVERYTHING. In fact, I find it challenging – and I’m often surprised at how seemingly ‘unsexy’ industries or ‘boring’ content turns out to be anything but.

I’ll leave you with the Sesame Street Clip where they go to the crayon factory to learn how to make crayons. It’s my absolute favourite.


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Shuffle Culture: How Apple Changed the Way we Listen to Music


I had never heard the idea of music played on ‘shuffle’ until I owned my first ipod in 2004.

The thought that I could import every single CD I owned into iTunes then set my music to shuffle so I’d effectively have my own personal jukebox was a revelation. To boot, I could make my own playlists which would kind of act like my own personal radio station, playing music of a particular genre at random, without pesky ads or DJs.

I was hooked, and so were millions of others who purchased iPods in the past ten years. As a mass we managed to create ‘shuffle culture’. The way people were listening to music actually changed,  and this change was created entirely by Apple.

Almost a decade later and I’m still a proud owner of several Apple devices (though I don’t think I qualify as a fangirl), but I’m starting to find shuffle kind of annoying. It seems that some playlists play the same set of tunes repeatedly, even when shuffling a thousand songs or more at a time. The frustration at this got me thinking about great albums that I love but haven’t listened to in long form for years.

So I started listening to music by the album recently – and it’s wonderful! Albums have become so much more interesting to me than the parts of the sum I had been listening to on shuffle.

How does this relate to instructional design? It doesn’t, not really, except it did get me thinking about how learning and especially instructional design at times seems to focus on producing small bites of information to be consumed ‘on the run’, in between work commitments and busy lives. This is all well and good, and I’m sure learners appreciate it, but are we at risk of losing the greater lesson or message of the work in the desperate need to keep learning brief and in morsel form? Just a thought.

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